2006 NFL Preview: The Jacksonville Jaguars

Quarterback- Byron Leftwich has already proven to be one of the toughest young quarterbacks in the NFL but his willingness to take hits is making him less a tough guy and more of a fragile statue in the pocket. Leftwich is extremely talented and look for 2006 to be the year where he really distinguishes himself as a quarterback, but he may be out for a few quarters here and there. In this case, the Jaguars are well set with long time backup David Garrard, who knows Jacksonville, the offense, and his teammates extremely well. Garrard can move the offense and if Leftwich goes down for any extended period of time, Jacksonville can adjust their offensive scheme accordingly.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

Running back/ Full back- Fred Taylor has not always been the most durable of running backs, but he has been one of the most resilient in the league. Taylor gets hurt almost annually but he bounces back and usually proves his worth on his way back. In 2006, look for the return on Taylor to start dwindling and Jacksonville will start to look toward LaBrandon Toefield and fullback Greg Jones to carry much more of the load. Jones is a solid full back who can plow over defenders and will eat up yardage and Toefield is a speedy runner/returner who will develop more in 2006.
2006 NFL Grade: B-

Wide Receiver/Tight End- The receiving corps is young for Jacksonville, but they are incredibly talented and if they come together in 2006, it will improve the Jaguars’ chances of getting to the playoffs. Tight end Kyle Brady is a solid blocker and a big target over the middle for Leftwich. As well, young receivers Ernest Wilford, Matt Jones, and Reggie Williams will benefit from having Leftwich from an entire season. Jones especially is the wave of the future for the Jaguars and his hard work and athleticism will make him an invaluable cog of the Jaguars’ offense in 2006. Look for Wilford and Williams to benefit from Jones developing into a solid NFL receiver over the 2006 season.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

Offensive Line- The offensive line in 2006 will be critical to the health of Byron Leftwich and the ability for Fred Taylor to make plays on a regular basis. Center Brad Meester and guards Vince Manuwai and Chris Naeole will be critical to pushing out defenders and keeping the running lanes open, especially with the between-the-tackles style of Fred Taylor and Greg Jones.
2006 NFL Grade: B

Defensive Line- The Jaguars’ defense will be defined this season by two things: Donovan Darius and the defensive line. Darius is the veteran presence on the Jaguars heading into the 2006 NFL season and the defensive line will dominate opposing teams’ running backs and quarterbacks. Marcellus Wiley is an intelligent veteran who may have his skills diminish over the next few years, but his leadership on the line helps out immensely with the development of young linemen. Defensive end Reggie Hayward and defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson are outstanding athletes and their efforts in the 2006 NFL season will help ease the pressure off of the rest of the unit. Look for either Stroud or Henderson to have a Pro Bowl season and Hayward to have Pro Bowl type numbers.
2006 NFL Grade: A-

Linebacker- The linebacker corps for the Jacksonville Jaguars is a group that is not entirely developed as a unit and outside of Mike Peterson it looks like a hodge podge of free agents and young players. Nick Greisen is a decent NFL linebacker and Daryl Smith and Clint Engram are fair to middling NFL players, but none of these guys are strong enough to make up for the loss of Mike Peterson to injury. The Jaguars will need to rely on their defensive backfield or their front four to make big plays in 2006, as the linebackers find their identity in the upcoming season.
2006 NFL Grade: C+

Defensive Back- Donovan Darius has distinguished himself in recent years as the leader of the Jacksonville secondary and the defensive backs are gelling into a fine unit. In 2006, corners Rashuan Mathis and Scott Starks, along with safety Deon Grant among others, will show their youth a little bit but more often will make some plays for the Jacksonville secondary. But team leader Darius provides the big hits and big plays that Coach del Rio wants to ignite the rest of the defensive unit. Look for Mathis or Grant to benefit from Darius’ big plays and have a good year statistically.
2006 NFL Grade: B

Kicker/Punter- Kicker Josh Scobee is an improving young kicker who give the Jaguars stability at one specialist position for the next decade if he keeps up his good play. Coach del Rio has two veteran punters in camp in the 2006 preseason, Chris Hanson and Toby Gowin, with the edge going to Hanson due to his experience on the team. However, if Gowin can have a great camp and Hanson falters a bit, don’t be surprised if del Rio makes a change and shakes things up a bit for a team that has scuffled the last few years.
2006 NFL Grade: B-

2006 NFL Projection- With a healthy Byron Leftwich and an improving chemistry among the defensive players, Coach del Rio will have the Jaguars back in contention for a playoff spot. The Jaguars will end up second in the AFC South with a 10-6 or 11-5 record, behind the Indianapolis Colts.

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